School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

VCU Alumni Stars recipient Karen E. Kimsey, center, with VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., left, and VCU Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Jay Davenport, right.

Disrupted by COVID, the VCU Alumni Stars celebration skipped a year, but the wait was worth it for two School of Social Work graduates.

The recently biennial recognition returned for the first time since 2019, and Karen Elizabeth Kimsey (M.S.W.’96/SW; Cert.’96/HP) and Emily Yeatts (B.A.’09/WS; B.A.’09/WS; Cert.’09/WS; M.S.W.’12/SW; M.P.H.’12/M; Cert.’12/GPA) were both honored Sept. 29 at the Dewey Gottwald Center at the Science Museum of Virginia. Kimsey was honored from the School of Social Work, and Yeatts was honored from the the School of World Studies and is also a social work alum.

Karen Elizabeth Kimsey

Kimsey, an independent health-care consultant, held numerous leadership positions at the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services in the past two decades. As director from 2019-22, she provided executive-level leadership, direction and accountability for Virginia’s Medicaid program, which serves 2 million individuals, with an annual budget of $20 billion. She led the agency during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure Medicaid was available to Virginians who needed health coverage and remained flexible for those using it. She also accomplished this while she battled a rare cancer through the pandemic, of which she is now in remission.

Karen Elizabeth Kimsey (M.S.W.’96/SW; Cert.’96/HP)

Prior to that post, she was chief deputy, when she was instrumental in developing and implementing the state’s Medicaid expansion benefit, which expanded health insurance to approximately 600,000 low-income adults. She also served as deputy director of complex care and services, director of policy and research, and director of the Office of Behavioral Health.  She led the successful implementation of integrating long-term and behavioral health services into a managed care platform to enhance care coordination for vulnerable Medicaid-eligible Virginians.

She’s authored or co-authored more than a dozen articles and technical reports, has presented at numerous state and national meetings, and has been a member of multiple state and federal government and industry organizations, including the Virginia State Executive Council, National Association of Medicaid Directors board and Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee. She has been honored for her work with numerous awards, including the National Association of Medicaid Directors’ Spotlight Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Governor’s Award – Governor’s Agency Star and the Department of Medical Assistance Services’ Special Recognition Awards for Outstanding Service to the Commonwealth, which she received multiple times.

Emily Yeatts

A five-time VCU alumna and a community-embedded (adjunct) faculty member with the School of Social Work, Yeatts is passionate about reproductive justice and language access, and she credits her coursework and study abroad experiences in Mexico and Bolivia for developing these interests. 

Emily Yeatts (B.A.’09/WS; B.A.’09/WS; Cert.’09/WS; M.S.W.’12/SW; M.P.H.’12/M; Cert.’12/GPA)

During her graduate studies in the schools of Government and Public Affairs, Medicine and Social Work, she served as a bilingual health educator/outreach specialist at the Minority Health Consortium, a community-based HIV/AIDS support organization, which ignited her passion for sexual and reproductive health. After earning her master’s degrees in 2012, she joined the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood as education director, developing, implementing and evaluating education programs in Richmond and Hampton Roads. That experience led her to her current position as reproductive health unit supervisor at the Virginia Department of Health, where she manages statewide public health programs related to family planning, adolescent health, sex education, pregnancy loss and abortion. 

Yeatts teaches social work policy with the School of Social Work. She is a Certified Volunteer Master Naturalist and is pursuing a Botanical Illustration Certificate at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Previous School of Social Work recipients

  • 2019: Jeanine Harper Maruca (B.S.W.’86/SW; M.S.W.’93/SW). Details
  • 2017: Robert W. “Bob” Peay (M.S.W.’74/SW). Bob Peay video
  • 2015: Grace E. Harris, Ph.D. (M.S.W.’60/SW)
  • 2013: Stephen S. Harms (M.S.W.’82/SW)
  • 2011: Paul D. McWhinney (B.S.W.’74/SW; M.S.W.’79.SW)
  • 2008: John Cragin (M.S.W.’79/SW)
  • 2005: Ira C. Colby (M.S.W.’75/SW)
  • 2003: Ray C. Goodwin (M.S.W.’64/SW)
  • 2001: Katharine Webb (M.S.W.’73/SW)
  • 2000: Carmen Nazario (M.S.W.’73/SW)
  • 1999: Cathy N. Pond (B.S.W.’76/SW; M.S.W.’80/SW)
  • 1998: Shelia Crowley (B.S.W.’76/SW; M.S.W.’78/SW; Ph.D.’98/SW)
  • 1997: R. Reese Harris (B.S.’66/SW; M.S.W.’68/SW)
  • 1995: Catherine E. Nash (M.S.W.’85/SW)
  • 1994: Michael A. Evans (B.S.W.’77/SW; M.S.W.’81/SW)
  • 1993: Virginia Anderson (M.S.W.’84/SW)
  • 1992: J.C. McWilliams Jr. (Cert.’67/HP; M.S.W.’71/SW)
  • 1991: Fred Karnas (M.S.W.’76/SW; Cert.’79/HP)
  • 1990: Kathy Snowden (B.S.’73/SW; M.S.W.’80/SW)
  • 1989: Mattie S. Jones (M.S.W.’59/SW)

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